Gawker Media dark overlord Nick Denton (pictured) has launched a new pay system for all Gawker Media blogs, after testing it at four of his leading sites. Denton's goal is to discourage "self indulgent" posts and "mind-numbing frequency" in favor of "linkworthy material, by which I mean a secret memo, a spy photo, a chart, a well-argued rant, a list, an exclusive piece of news, a well-packaged find." Where does a self-indulgent secret memo fit on that axis? I guess we'll find out after the jump.
From: Noah Robischon
Subject: Editor Newsletter - 2008 Preview Edition
Date: December 31, 2007 11:42:12 AM PST
In January, as you've no doubt heard, Gawker editorial is introducing a new bonus system. While your base monthly pay remains the same, the chance of a bonus will depend on your individual performance. More specifically: it will depend on the popularity of your posts that month. Below, an explanation of the background to the move; why now; and how the new system works.
It's only on the internet that a writer's contributions can be measured. At newspapers, a reporter's reputation depends on the opinion of their editors, which can be fickle. Some people get on because they play the office politics well. Or simply because they're more aggressive in lobbying for more prominent jobs, or pay increases.
Advertising people say that the internet is special, because the audience's engagement is so much more measurable than that of newspaper readers, or television viewers. Which makes it so bizarre that most writers, on the internet as in print, are paid for the sheer brute quantity of their output.
Gawker has been equally backward. Sure, we pioneered the pageview bonus system, which rewards all writers for a site's performance. But, let's be honest: those bonuses have been allocated subjectively. And, in the large, writers have been rewarded, at $12 a post, for mind-numbing frequency. When we've paid a higher rate (the $200 "feature" rate) we've often not been rewarding better pieces; merely encouraging the padding of perfectly good, short items.
In short, we have repeated the bad habits of traditional media organizations: leaving remuneration to the arbitrary will of upper management; and, by treating words as if they were Soviet steel output targets, encouraging quantity over quality.
2. WHY NOW
Early on in the commercial blog era, frequency was the key to the success of a site: Engadget took a lead because it churned out 24 posts a day while Gizmodo, fearful of overwhelming its audience, stuck to a dainty dozen items. We learnt that lesson, and vowed never to be out-produced again. But we now really are reaching the limits of sheer volume. Readers can't take any more. And the proliferation of blogs, and social news services such as Digg, has changed the rules.
Where there was a shortage of attitude and commentary, there's now a surfeit. And what's in heavy demand, and short supply, is linkworthy material, by which I mean a secret memo, a spy photo, a chart, a well-argued rant, a list, an exclusive piece of news, a well-packaged find. Gina showed on Lifehacker, with the style of feature she pioneered a couple of years ago, that it was possible to grow a site's audience without endlessly increasing the number of posts.
Second, our objective is not merely to provide gratification for a writer, or amusement for their pals, but to appeal to the wider readership of a site, and to new readers who might discover it through Digg or Google or some other link. It's fine to pen the occasional self-indulgent or self-referential item. But we're not going to waste the editorial budget on them, when we're investing so heavily in the sites. We need a more efficient form of bonus compensation — and one that's fair to the writers who care most about their readers.
Third, the market for editorial talent is becoming more competitive. If a writer works like hell, or sparkles, we always run a risk: that somebody outside the organization notices before the news trickles up the management hierarchy. We need a mechanism to reward hard work, and stardom — to dispense pay increases automatically, if you will.
3. HOW IT WORKS
For several months now, we've displayed the number of views each item receives. It's not a perfect measure. The view count does not reflect attention paid to the posts on the front page; nor photo galleries (which are usually junk views anyhow); and it can overstate the value of cheap items with superficial appeal, but which damage a site's reputation. Nevertheless, it's the best measure we have, so we're going to use it to calculate bonuses.
From now on, you will be paid a set monthly fee. This is the total amount of money outlined in your editorial agreement or determined between you and your site lead. The era of counting posts that are worth $12 or $200 is over. You will be expected to contribute a set number of posts each month in exchange for your monthly base pay.
On top of your monthly base pay, you will be eligible for a bonus based on the number of pageviews your posts receive each month. This total includes any pageview on any story with your byline that was read during the month, even if the story is months or years old. You can track your monthly total here: (Click your site name in the rollup data section along the very top of the page).
Each site will be assigned a pageview rate, which is the dollar amount that each 1,000 pageviews on the site is worth. Although this sounds similar to an advertising CPM, this number has nothing to do with your site's revenue or advertising value. At the end of the month, if the money you earn in pageviews exceeds your monthly base pay, you will be paid the extra money as a bonus.
This chart should make it clearer. If your site has a PV rate of $5:
$2,000 = 400,000 views:
$5,000 = 1m views:
$7,000 = 1.4m views
Based on this example, if your base pay is $2,000 per month then you would need to get upwards of 400,000 pageviews to begin earning bonus. A total of 500,000 views would earn $500 bonus (or $2,500 total pay).
Your site lead will be able to tell you the pageview rate for your site, and give you a chart like this one to for calculating bonus.
For the majority of sites, there is no cap on the amount of bonus you can earn each month. Four sites are already using the new bonus system (Gawker, Wonkette, Gizmodo and Defamer). One guest editor on Wonkette landed a huge exclusive and walked away with an extra $3k in his paycheck.
-Rules Of The Road-
* The pageview rate for each site will change at the beginning of each quarter. It cannot be changed at any other time.
* This bonus will replace all other bonuses that now exist.
* Site leads do not take part in this system. They are still measured on overall site performance.
* The site lead has the right to revoke pageviews on any post. This is to guard against the publication of material that may be inappropriate or illicit, and we hope it is never necessary.
The site leads have more detailed information about all of this, and can share specific numbers for your site to give you a better sense of how your pageviews will translate into bonus.
Please send questions to so that we can round them all up and answer for everyone.
- Noah and Nick